After getting numerous complaints about about last Saturday’s high school soccer state championship matches, the Maine Principals’ Association will revisit how it reschedules the events.
According to Mike Burnham, an assistant executive director with the organization, the MPA’s soccer committee will survey schools about how best to host the state finals, with the focus on two issues.
One is whether to continue holding all matches on artificial turf, which has been the policy for the last two years. The idea was to provide as pristine a November playing surface as possible for the contending teams, but with the limited number of artificial turf fields available to high school programs — particularly in central and northern Maine — some schools complained the policy gives an advantage to schools that have artificial surfaces within their athletic complexes and can play and practice on turf throughout the soccer season.
Another survey focus could result in predetermining where each class plays its state finals each year. One option would be similar to the format used for basketball, baseball and softball, with two classes holding state finals in Eastern Maine and two playing in Western Maine one year, then alternating those locations the next year.
Another suggestion would be to stage all state finals in in Eastern Maine one year and in the West the next year, again alternating those locations in subsequent years.
Predetermining where the finals are held — with the state’s northernmost turf facility in Presque Isle among the Eastern Maine sites that would be considered, according to Burnham — would remove the current subjectivity from the selection process, subjectivity that has been used with mixed results in an effort to provide travel equality when possible by waiting until after the regional finals to determine at which already designated location specific state games are held.
Unfortunately, that subjectivity has produced as many unhappy folks as those who are satisfied, and I’m fairly certain there’s never going to be a perfect solution when as many as 16 different schools could be competing.
Ideally the Caribou girls team would not have had to travel nearly 300 miles to play Falmouth on its home field as was the case last Saturday — though who could have predicted that Falmouth would emerge from the No. 4 seed in Western B when that facility and Hampden Academy were selected to host this year’s finals, which were selected well before the playoffs began. But this year’s decision on where specific teams would play was complicated by the fact that three schools — Bangor, Fort Kent and Richmond — each had both boys and girls teams competing and northern Aroostook County was represented by four teams. That severely lessened the possibility of perhaps mix classes at different sites, as was discussed in Caribou’s case, according to the MPA.
The old-school competitor in me has two thoughts on this situation.
First, back in my day as an athlete I would have traveled to Kittery, Fort Kent or anywhere in between for a chance to compete for a championship, for the thrill of the opportunity outweighed any sacrifice required and if we had the better team, we’d find a way to win — as did the Bangor boys team and Sacopee Valley of South Hiram girls squad did at opposite ends of the state.
What’s worse, sometimes these side issues evolve into pre-existing alibis for failure, and seemingly most of the energy expended on them is less energy used on the primary goal — scoring more goals than the other team.